15 November 2023 Energy Data, Energy Management, Renewable Energy

Five steps for turning net zero ambitions into deliverable projects

Sam Hunt, Director of New Energy Systems at SMS plc, shares how businesses embarking on the critical net zero journey can turn goals into feasible, cost-saving projects.

By 2050, all UK industries are required to achieve net zero emissions — a monumental task that demands immediate action. Whilst this may seem like a distant reality, the truth is businesses need to start acting now to translate these ambitious goals into tangible projects that result in substantial savings.

Data is indispensable on the journey to net zero. Accurate and reliable data serve as the compass that helps steer organisations toward sustainable practices and successful carbon reduction projects. However, the path forward is not always clear, and one roadblock energy managers may frequently encounter is transforming good-intentioned objectives into actionable projects. Overcoming this challenge requires careful planning, innovation, and strong collaboration.

Here are the top five steps to get started on the journey.

1. Leverage energy data to enable the precise measurement of performance

To effectively achieve carbon reductions, organisations must start by obtaining a precise picture of their current carbon footprint. This starts with a deep dive into the fundamental aspects of energy consumption. Start by focusing on the primary gas and electricity supply for each facility, utilising half-hourly readings to gain the granularity necessary to make informed decisions on both operational improvements and new technologies.

Half-hourly data is essential to improving operational energy and carbon performance as it allows granular comparison of site consumption and load with its history, with other sites and with other variables.

Data is not just important for operation – it’s fundamental to the success of carbon reduction technologies. Accurate data is critical as it provides the necessary foundation for sizing and designing energy technologies, be they solar PV, electrified heating, or other measures.

2. Analyse your data to gather valuable energy management information

With data in hand, the next step is to extract meaningful insights. By doing so, organisations can gain a deeper understanding of their energy consumption patterns and identify areas for improvement. Analytical methods involve comparing energy consumption differences among similar sites using key performance indicators like kilowatt-hours per square meter to identify high-consumption sites. Subsequently, assessing consumption changes over specific timeframes helps uncover inefficiencies, like unnecessary energy usage during low-activity hours.

During this stage it is important to have available, complete, high-quality data on a platform capable of hosting multiple sites and providing tools for in-depth analysis, including non-energy data such as floor area, operating hours, occupancy and outside air temperature.

3. Use insights to identify, assess and engineer carbon reduction opportunities

Once insights are gained, organisations can move on to assess potential carbon reduction opportunities. This step involves a careful evaluation of feasibility and impact. Engaging experts with technical knowledge to survey sites is crucial for evaluating factors such as lighting, heating systems, ventilation, and potential upgrades. An equally important consideration is the availability of adequate space to accommodate carbon-reducing technologies.

Furthermore, a key aspect of this process involves conducting a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis. This helps organisations calculate the costs associated with implementing changes to their energy systems and forecast the savings, demonstrating a clear return on investment.

4. Turn opportunities into deliverable projects

Having identified opportunities, the final step is to turn them into tangible, deliverable projects. This phase involves engaging the supply chain, obtaining quotes for equipment and services, and effectively managing contractors. Collaboration with suppliers and installers is crucial for ensuring that costs and timelines align with project expectations.

In some cases, conducting trial projects is beneficial, especially for novel technologies or situations with higher risks. These trials, initially applied in one or two sites, allow organisations to demonstrate feasibility. Implementing changes in phases, rather than a full building retrofit, minimises disruption.

5. Create continual cycles of improvement to drive long-term sustainability goals

Sustaining continual improvement goes beyond initial implementation. To meet net zero objectives, organisations must engage in effective improvement plans. A robust method of supporting this goal is implementing a ISO 50001 certified management system, an internationally recognised framework for best practice energy management.

Beyond this, promoting awareness and engagement among staff is vital, such as demonstrating how individual actions contribute to the net zero trajectory and tailoring communications toward stakeholders with carbon influence. Additionally, you should consistently share objectives and progress across the organisation to raise awareness. By integrating these strategies, organisations can sustain their commitment to sustainability and work towards long-term goals together.

This article originally appeared in Energy Manager Magazine (November 2023) and can he read here.

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At SMS, we establish new energy systems and low-carbon strategies for organisations across the industrial, commercial, and public sectors through our data-driven consultancy, asset finance, and technical energy expertise.